Like Democrats in Oregon House District 53, Republicans have two candidates to choose from in hopes of replacing Gene Whisnant, who’s retiring, in the fall. There are clear differences between Jack Zika, 40, of Redmond, and Ben Schimmoller, 25, of Redmond.

Zika offers voters the better chance of being successful, in November and in the Legislature.

Schimmoller moved to Oregon when he was 12, attended St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School and Mountain View High School in Bend, and graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in political science. He managed Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Henderson’s campaign in 2016. He has continued to work in politics.

Zika grew up in Ohio and attended the University of Cincinnati before moving to Oregon. A Realtor, he has been active in the Oregon Association of Realtors. He’s a member of the Redmond Planning Commission, as well as that city’s neighborhood revitalization and south U.S. Highway 97 corridor advisory committee.

Both men cite state regulation of land-use planning as one of the causes of Oregon’s burgeoning homelessness problem, and both would like to see more local control where land-use decisions are concerned. Both argue state government wastes money. Zika believes any decision about a footbridge across the Deschutes in southern Bend should be made locally, while Schimmoller says he believes the U.S. Forest Service has made building it impossible.

In the end, the big difference is experience. The difference would be less important if Zika were 60 and Schimmoller were 45 than it is at 40 and 25. But Zika has had more time to be involved in his community, and he has done so. He’s spent time, through his work with the Realtors’ association, working on the issues that both men say are important, particularly on things such as land-use planning and private property rights.

Schimmoller could make a fine legislator. But Zika has an edge. Republicans in District 53 should support Zika.

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